Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Parenting Hour #1

Jeff and I have wanted to set aside time to talk about our parenting for ages and ages. Somehow it always seems to get put on the back burner. But we can't stumble through our parenting years and wait until they are over and the kids have left home to have these discussions! What good would they be then? So we have decided that we will commit to spending one hour every Monday (Jeff's day off) to reading Shepherding a Child's Heart by Ted Tripp together, talking about it and then (we hope!) putting what we learn into practice.

Yesterday we had our first Parenting Hour. Having spent all morning on a day trip on the train into the city, visiting the museum, and then missing our stop on the way back, we were both pretty exhausted when we finally dropped to the couch together after the kids were in bed. I wasn't just tired, I was grumpy as well. Before we started, I prayed a really short prayer: "LORD, help me not to be grumpy." And then I just sat and waited until I was calm, before we opened the book together.

Jeff read the intro aloud, then I read the first chapter. A few places along the way we stopped to discuss something. Then at the end of the chapter we answered the questions and thought about how it would look in our own situation. Here are some snippets from my notes:

Shepherding a child's heart means not just discussing things with the childen, but demonstrating them. We need to help our children know what sin is, and understand why they sin, so that they can wisely repent and turn to their Saviour Jesus Christ for forgivenness.

Proverbs 4:23 tells us to "Guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life."
Jesus also said that it is the content and condition of the "heart" that determines what we say and do, and whether these are good or bad (Mark 7:21, Luke 6:45). Tripp's main thesis is that parents must aim to shape their children's hearts, not just their behaviour that comes out from what is in their hearts. We talked about how sometimes the word "heart" can be used as a Christian euphemism that is never really explained. But it is clear from these passages that when we are talking about reaching and teaching our children's "hearts" in a biblical sense, we are talking about discipling; shaping their attitudes behind their actions.

Application: our parenting of our kids

> We must make an effort to interpret and judge the intent and attitude behind a child's action before we react to rebuke or correct them. We need to know the cause behind our child's displeasing action:
(1) It may have been an accident; this requires a calm offer of comfort and assurance that they are not guilty.
(2) It might have been a bad decision made with inadequate information because they didn't know to ask or we didn't think to tell them; this requires teaching in a time of calm.
(3) It might have been a bad decision where they knowingly disobeyed our instructions (their parental authority) or God's instructions (their ultimate authority); this requires rebuke (pointing out their sin), discipline (punishment), correction (showing them the correct way to go in the future) and guidance to repent and seek forgiveness, all administered calmly.
We must slow down our parenting, as we take time to assess, and don't just act.

And first, we need to take the time to gain self-control over our own response of anger caused by annoyance or frustration or disappointment or sadness (or whatever) before we respond to the child.

> We can't just get angry at the kids because we are inconvenienced, because that will only demonstrate just how full of selfishness our own hearts are! Being honest with each other, we admitted that often when we react with anger to our children. Often the reason why we get angry is because we feel frustrated that the child has not obeyed us the first time - but this can really be seen as the result of our own failure to ensure their compliance. The problem is, we often choose to keep doing the thing we were doing before (cooking dinner, typing a blog post, watching TV, reading a book, sweeping the floor...) rather than choose to deal with the situation immediately. Although we want to complete our own task (and regardless of whether that is a good choice or not), dealing with our children's behaviour in a way that will deal with their heart attitudes and not just their actions requires that we respond immediately. While our other tasks may be important, our parenting is vital. It cannot be delayed until a convenient time. Some things need to be done soon, and others need to be done immediately. If we try to delay our full response to the children by calling out further instructions to the other side of the house, we are only going to create bigger problems. We must speed up our parenting, as we stop what we are doing straight away so we can "shepherd" our children's hearts.

Reality: where the rubber hits the road

Of course, this morning I had an opportunity to put what we had talked about into practise as soon as I opened my eyes. Joshua came into our room just before 7am to tell us he had wet his bed. My first response was grumpy, I admit. But Jeff had the presence of mind to remind me that I needed to deal with it appropriately: was this something that was an accident, or a bad decision? The truth is, it was an accident. Joshua told me in a confused voice a bit later that he'd been having a dream. These things do happen, even with a six year old who has been toilet trained for half his life. Also, Joshua's actions in taking off his wet pjs and coming to tell us immediately meant that he had made good decisions about how to act when the accident happened, not bad ones. Aah!

I needed to slow down in my parenting responses: I concentrated on getting over my annoyance at being woken up earlier than I would have liked. Then I told Joshua I was sorry for being angry with him for something that wasn't his fault, and I asked his forgiveness, which he freely granted.

I needed to speed up in my parenting: I couldn't lie in bed and pretend the bed wasn't wet. God had graciously given me an early start today so that I had time to deal with Joshua's wet sheets and his need for a morning shower before the others woke up and required my attention. So I asked Joshua to help me get the sheets off and all the wet clothes into the washing machine, then I sent him into the shower. Thanks be to God, both of us were showered and dressed ready for the day just when I needed to put on our morning wake up music, and help the other children with their morning chores.

Now if only God will grant me the grace to persevere with what we have learnt...


Mrs. Edwards said...

Your hour together reading this book sounds great. I need to read it as well. We watched a video session of Tripp teaching the subject once, but haven't actually read the book. What I appreciated best was the circle of blessing visual aid to help understand the cycle of disobedience, discipline/correction, restoration, and blessing.

I look forward to future updates! What a nice way for you and Jeff to spend some intentional time together, too.

Anonymous said...

This is great Sharon. Keep up the reading and posting... I like the slow down and speed up 'sound bytes'. It's always good to keep those little phrases in your head!


argsmommy said...

I have been wanting to read that book as well. I love that you're doing it as a couple.